• 12 million people fall in age bracket of 40-50
• Walk-in facility allowed for people over 50
• 70 die, 4,825 contract virus in single day
• Ulema to extend assistance in SOPs’ enforcement
ISLAMABAD: In a major development, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Monday decided to open registration of around 12 million people in the age group of 40 to 50 years and allowed walk-in vaccination facility for citizens over 50.
Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said people who were 40 years and above could get themselves registered for vaccination from Tuesday (today).
“In today’s NCOC meeting, it was decided to open up registration of 40 plus age citizens starting tomorrow [Tuesday]. Also decision taken to allow walk in vaccination of all registered citizens of 50 plus age group. If you are 40 years or older please register and encourage others to register,” the minister tweeted.
On the other hand, prominent religious scholars assured the NCOC meeting that they would play their role in the enforcement of standard operating procedures (SOPs) during Ramazan and Eid.
An official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), requesting not to be named, said according to estimates there were around 12 million people in the 40-50 age bracket and 27 million over 50 years.
“Unfortunately, we have not received a very positive response from people to the vaccination. So it was decided to allow walk-in vaccination for people over 50 and registration for those aged 40 and above in order to expedite the pace of inoculation,” he said.
The official said though the delivery of 17 million doses from Covax — an international alliance which has pledged to provide free vaccine for 20pc of the country’s population – has been delayed, a large number of procured vaccines were expected to arrive from China and Russia.
Meanwhile, Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri and NCOC National Coordinator Lt-Gen Hamooduz Zaman chaired a special meeting of the forum, which was attended by prominent ulema.
During the meeting, it was agreed that religious scholars would help implement SOPs during Ramazan and Eid.
The NCOC also decided not to allow more than 50 students into the examination centre during the Cambridge exams.
In another development, Minister for Economic Affairs Omar Ayub Khan witnessed the signing ceremony of a handing over certificate of the ‘Third Batch of Covid-19 Vaccine Aid’ along with Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong.
The Chinese government has provided 500,000 vials of the vaccine under its grant assistance.
In the first and second batches, one million doses of Sinopharm vaccine were donated by the Chinese government.
Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Nong Rong reaffirmed his country’s support to Pakistan on issues of mutual interest, especially in its efforts to tackle Covid-19.
Meanwhile, the NCOC reported 70 deaths and 4,825 new cases in a single day. According to its data, the number of active cases had swelled to 89,219 on Monday with 5,810 being treated in hospitals across the country.
Arrangements to store doses
The Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) has enhanced the capacity of its cold chain to ensure high quality of vaccine storage with cushion to accommodate various Covid-19 vaccines.
This special storage and cold chain arrangement is in addition to 15,000 cold freezers and 23 ultra cold freezers.
Meanwhile, 22 mass vaccination centres have been established with a daily average target of 5,000 vaccinations each.
The National Health Services ministry spokesperson, Sajid Shah, said communication initiative had been undertaken as per global practices.
“The existing 1166 helpline for polio and other immunisations was quickly upgraded to support Covid-19 response. As of April 7, 145 agents are dedicated to Covid-19 response whereas 267,748 calls on vaccination were answered. A total of 8,375,912 cumulative calls have so far been received,” he said, adding the government made the helpline toll-free on March 23.
The spokesperson said a parliamentary committee was formed by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser which included members from the government and opposition.
“A separate cabinet committee has also been formed to make high-level critical decisions on the procurement and roll-out of vaccines,” Mr Shah said.
He said the committee played an instrumental role in expediting the arrival of the vaccine in Pakistan by facilitating various channels available.
It advocated for and successfully acquired $150 million from Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet, relaxed the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules, exempted fulfillment of tender requirement to procure vaccines, liaised with Drap to expedite Emergency Use Authorisation of vaccines and allowed registration of four brands,” he said.
The ministry spokesperson said Pakistan’s forward thinking diplomacy had borne fruit with regard to local manufacture of vaccines.
“The federal government has reached an agreement with CansinoBio regarding shared production of the vaccine. Three million concentrates (bulk quantity) will be imported initially and the National Institute of Health will formulate, sterilise and pack imported material locally. Pakistan had already played a crucial role in the development of this single-shot, game-changing vaccine when the Phase III trial of CansinoBio was conducted in five different areas,” Mr Shah said.-
Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2021